Friday, October 30, 2015

Loneliness Beckons Us Into Discovery - Ella's Story

"Sometimes God shows you something and then He grows you into it." -Nathan Edwardson
Ella is in her mid-fifties and lives in a major metropolitan city. After her child went away to college she and her husband felt called to move from suburbia into the city to an older, established neighborhood. Being accomplished in photography and music, Ella knew that artists lived in this neighborhood and she had expectations of a greater companionship with those who share her passion for the arts.

One of the first things that happened was the realization that living in the city meant an increase in crime. They had to put up a fence (common in her neighborhood) which immediately made the process of interacting with neighbors more challenging.

It is also a “transitional” neighborhood. Long time residents are feeling displaced and overtaken by those who are tearing down old homes and building newer and more costly ones for their new families or for those who are close to retirement, like Ella. Most people require two incomes to live in this neighborhood. Thus, many women are working during the day. And then, on the other side, the shacks and old run down homes just a few blocks away teem with families struggling to survive. The white people do not greet the black people: FEAR. The black people do not look into the eyes of the white people: DISTRUST. 

Ella goes on to say:

"I know my husband and I are supposed to be here. But, I have had to change my 'suburban' mindset. My mornings are no longer spent meeting moms for coffee to discuss the SAT test or a homework assignment. Instead, I feel that now I am meeting life that is real. I have had to adjust my “judgment meter.” I am learning to listen more. I am meeting people who have a radically different worldview than I. I have become compassionate to those who do not believe like I do, realizing, as Jesus said, that he did not come to condemn the world but to save it."

Ella hasn't been to church much in the past year. She is longing to find one that will be able to connect with the people that surround her and is also true to the Bible. She spends time reading her Bible each day and prays that God will birth something new in this neighborhood. She feels God wants her to pray for women to one day get together for a study called, Who Is Jesus...And He’s Not The Guy You Often Meet At Church.
Ella says, "So, even though I am lonely, I know I have a purpose. My first purpose is to draw my heart close to God and to hear Him. The second is to be obedient and love. I am realizing it is much more important to me to be purposeful than to have friends."

"Our weakness, our story of struggle, even the truth about the cost of our choice to follow God — these are the greatest gifts we have to give to others in their journey." - Rick Richardson

This post is part of a continuing series dealing with calling and vocational loneliness. You can read the previous post in this series by clicking here.

Cityscape - Image: 16661911 kwest
Butterfly - Image: 191699 William Sarver

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Lonely Side of Spiritual Vocation

"Vocational loneliness means handing over your plans, your understanding of how things should be, your very liberty, to the greater forces of the Holy Spirit, to make of your life what God has in mind." Mary Sharon Moore MTS
Rich and I knew when we left our 35 year stretch in Thousand Oaks, California, we were paddling into unknown waters. For one thing, we knew it was time to leave, but we didn't know where to go. It was a strange predicament, for sure. We were experiencing a restlessness and felt like God was calling us out to ???......somewhere!

The next two years in Cambria, California, was an interesting interlude. We'd owned a home there for eight years so we chose to go there first to seek, wait, and listen. With a view of the Pacific Ocean out our front window and the sound of waves lulling us to sleep at night you'd wonder why we would even consider leaving. But both of us knew we needed to move on. Cambria was part of the journey...a temporary landing place.

Then we felt a call to move to Redding, California, where we are now. Although one of our adult children lives here, it wasn't the underlying reason we moved here. I won't try to list reasons why we chose it or try to make sense of it. We just knew. We told God we were open to going where He wanted to use us. We knew we would never be content with the typical retirement living model and wanted to be open to new experiences and ministry opportunities. Since we both do coaching, writing and consulting, we can work from pretty much anywhere.

We've been here going on five years now. And it has been a steep learning curve. This is not my comfort zone. With that statement I should say that returning to what we had in Southern California is not our burning heart's desire either or we would be back there by now. Once you hear and follow that vocational call, it is not easy to turn your back on it.

What I've learned:

When you choose vocation and significance over familiarity and comfort, you will experience loneliness. 

Probably the most challenging part of loneliness for me has been the lack of an intimate friendship or two here where I live. If you are female you know what I am talking about. I need a friendship that has been tested, tried, is safe, has common interests and levels that go down a long ways. It takes time to build something like this, but you can sense early on whether a friendship can go that distance or not. I realize few can. I've coped with this friend void by staying in touch regularly with a few close friends in Southern California and visiting them often, along with my siblings.

Some people say, "when you move you find out who your true friends are." But that doesn't express what I'm trying to say. Not everyone makes an effort to stay in touch with you after you move. These people don't really stop being your friends, but the type of connection you have with them does change. You realize they are part of a past chapter of your life. It becomes more of a history. To be resentful or refuse to let go of that change is pretty much a waste. I've been down that road.

Most of us know you can put yourself out there, be surrounded by people, and still be in a place of loneliness. I'm far from being bored. I have plenty to do and what I do is fulfilling. And I love being near grandchildren. The challenge for me has been how to cope with the loneliness. In some of my middle of the night conversations with God, He reminds me He didn't force us to come nor is He forcing us to stay. But at times He also whispers in my ear with an eager anticipation that intrigues me:  "Don't miss what I am doing here." Then I remember that's why we came.

(This is the first post in a series on the subject of loneliness in living out your spiritual vocation.)

Quotation:  Mary Sharon Moore, Copyright 2012.

Photography: Sheryl Bullock Copyright 2012